Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Injections, injections, injections.

Today was the big day.

The morning barn-feeder freakin' screwed us Monday. She was "sick". And there was NOBODY else to feed, so to add insult to injury, it was I who had to help Casey feed up for her because Casey had her 1 1/2 year old with her. Super duper. So sick she couldn't feed, but one of the girls at the barn apparently saw her driving around that morning. Why thank you, for making me cancel my appointment because you are SO sick that you can drive around but not feed. Thanks.

But it was probably for the better, because the farrier came, and I had no idea he was coming, so Amber would have missed her trim.

She NEARLY screwed us again today. We left 30 mins late because she showed up late and couldn't finish before she had to work - so we had to throw hay, water and pull blankets. I have more great things from her today, but I digress from that momentarily.

Amber was looking bright in her purple and green sheet and shipping boots. She hopped on the trailer and we were off.

We got to the clinic about 30 mins late, but the vet was stuck in traffic so it actually became perfect timing. Still annoyed with the barn help, despite her bloopers actually helping me - while everything happens for a reason and they WERE helpful screw ups, it could have turned out badly and it's just rude.

Amber hopped off the trailer, and true to Amber form, after a nearly 2 hour trailer ride, was happy to go pee in a stall while we waited for the vet to see us, and stare casually out the window.

The vet did a thorough lameness exam. We didn't have X-rays, but I fully trust this vet's opinion for various reasons that I may dip into later. She found something though that we had not considered - or at least, nobody else would entertain that I mentioned long ago. Her pelvis is out of alignment. It's sooo far out of whack. The vet had me feel where her spine goes, and you follow it down and it goes way out to the side over her pelvis.

The vet said it's hard to tell if the pelvis is a result of compensation for hocks/stifles, or if the hocks/stifles are the result of compensation for the pelvis. Either way, it all must be fixed. She recommended a chiro to us and tried to get ahold of her to swing in while we were there, but she couldn't reach her.

So Amber got both hocks injected today. The vet was pretty surprised that Dr. Ipock only injected one hock. I have almost no knowledge about injections, but I noticed that they were given at a completely different angle/area than Dr. Ipock did on that one hock. But the joints fluid was watery and almost not there. No wonder she was stiff and cranky.

She is on stall rest, and then tomorrow she gets turn out. In two days I will start walk/trotting her lightly. Then in about a week, I will call Dr. Wheeler back and let her know how things are going.

Right now, the plan is for her to go back up in a couple of weeks or so and have her chiro done at the same time she gets her stifles injected. From what I could tell, the stifle injections may be dependent on what the hock injections do.

But although it's hard to tell so early, the prognosis seems positive that Amber will be able to return to work as a low hunter and poke around the local shows. That would make me super happy.

Dr. Wheeler was impressed by Amber's good attitude. She was, as always, a gem. Very chill and well behaved. She said Amber was a great movement and conformation - can you say super proud?

At this point, I will pop out as much $$ as I need to do make her a sound, happy hunter/jumper again. She's worth it.

Amber is what she is because I believed in her. At times I lost faith. Twice now I've seriously considered selling her as a trail horse. It would be a tremendous waste. Riding other horses has made me realize what an "automatic" she's become - not only because I know how to ride her because she's mine, but because I trained her. 'm sure if I go back and read my first few blogs, I'd quickly see how much training I truly have put into her. Riding other horses has made me realize how easily she moves off my leg, and how sensitive she is to my seat. I barely ever have to use my hands. The way it should be. Her jumping must be natural talent, because SHE has taught ME to jump. But I do appreciate those lead changes...all I have to do is help her time her strides and let her do her thing.

She's still young and a little green, and I might think she's a little less green than she is simply because I know her so well. The way she tenses up and refuses to cooperate for others who have ridden her (I thought she was going to throw Bob into a fence that one day...) is a reminder that she isn't necessarily an easy ride just yet, but she's a mental ride and you have to think about things. Be subtle and don't fidget and try to adjust everything and she's golden. And whatever you do, don't take up contact immediately or you'll go for a ride. She got to the point where she can accept immediate contact from me (though I don't, because I know what she prefers) but it has neeeever worked out for anyone else.

Anyway. The plan for now is light work in a couple of days, chiro and stifles in a few weeks, and when her current joint supp runs out, she's going on Cosequin. Adequan is a possibility later depending on how her joint injections do.

Back to the topic of the barn feeder who has been irking me...multiple things in addition to her interfering with my vet appointments happened later.

She broke the hose I bought to water the pastures. Thanks. Go buy a new one. Now we have to haul the hose for the inside back and forth. She also left without filling the waters for two pastures, so those horses went without water all day. Isn't that special?

And last but not least, there is a strand of tape that is on the bottom of a gate. It's not hot, and we tie it up with bailing twine to keep one of the mini donkeys from walking under the fence. She likes to do that. She tied the stupid thing up there in a way that it could NOT be undone. So I'm standing here with two ponies in my hand, one that's about to lose it because of the tractor behind us, trying to let the wire down.

Let me tell you how much I appreciated her efforts today. And all the other days she has done similar BS.

Oh, I also took the time and trouble to label all the halters with names...only to have them mixed up on horses they didn't belong to today. I appreciated that bit too.

But I can't help but be cheerful because of the good outlook for maresie.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Vet on Monday.

Dr. Smith is coming to the barn tomorrow morning.

I'm hoping she'll just tell me that the specialist thought the best course of action would be hill work and some cavaletti, and throw some shoes on the back to stop the dragging until it stops.

Honestly, I'm not 100% sure of anything right now...and it's very frustrating. I'm the sort of person who likes to be totally organized and be totally certain of whatever plan of action that is going to be taken - especially with horses.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One of the hardest decisions in my life.

Nothing is 100% yet. But I gave Casey the okay to trade Amber for a potential new horse for me.

I have spent the past couple of days being brutally honest with myself. And it's come down to several points. The options themselves are simple - the hard part is which option to take. I could go through with all the exams and treatments, and sell her. I could go through with all the exams and treatments, and continue to ride her to the fullest extent she can be ridden soundly. I could sell her "as is" (which is not necessarily unsound, especially not for trail riding), skipping treatments and such, as a trail horse.

But I've realized the following:

-I want Amber to enjoy life as a show horse so badly that I often imagine her to be having a better time than she in fact is. Truth is, Amber is just a good, obedient horse that does what she's told.
-Amber is not nearly as attached to me as I am to her. Again - something I want so badly that I'm imagining things that aren't reality.
-Amber won't be able to take me very far in the hunter ring, period. And honestly, even if I decided to do dressage and CT one day, or perhaps if I became really brave, eventing, she just doesn't have the ability. That's just the reality of it, and there again - I'm imagining talent and ability where it isn't.
-Amber has the wonderful ability to be a master trail horse. Lead, follow, alone or in a group, she's just a great little trail horse.
-Amber has NEVER been 100% "sound" for the work she's in". Looking back, I bet the sticky stifles have always been the issue.
-When I bought her, and we can look back and see it in the old blog, I was nervous that her not-so-great conformation in the hind end would be our downfall, and I was right - it has.
-When I bought her, my intention was to do local, lower level dressage shows. My goals are different now and the things I aspire to do, Amber will not be capable of doing.

So I am now potentially trading her for this new horse that, while it's a project, is promising.

This is extremely hard for me. I was alone in the barn and had a pretty emotional moment crying on Amber's shoulder. I love her, and I've put in so much to make her into something she's not. It feels like failure - of myself and her. I'm making a point not to look on it like that. There were good times, bad times. But in the end, she has brought me closer to a fearless rider than I've ever been. Mind you, I'm NOT one, but I'm riding the best I've ever ridden, and doing more than I've ever done.

But, that is what it is. And I'm determined not to over-analyze it. I've put careful thought and reason into it. Reality of often not a pretty thing, and I won't say it's not painful, but in a sense I'm glad for it, because it feels better being true to myself and her. Sometimes being a dreamer isn't the best thing when you are trying to make a horse capable of more than it is and do things it shouldn't be doing and doesn't want to. I've come to a simple conclusion that her stifle issue may and most likely arose when she started jumping - for the first time in her life - a couple of months before I met her. And it's just been a bad combination of not understanding the issue/lack of work/more jumping. I have done the best I could with the knowledge and resources I have had.

On the positive end. The possible new horse is a gelding. Casey was saying something about thinking he's a small Warmblood...I think he's just a leggy QH, but he does look like a small Warmblood I must admit.

He's between 15.1 and 15.2hhs. He came with no name, and Victoria had picked Jack, but I've already had a Jack and it just doesn't feel right having another Jack. So I have, being hopeful, named him Benji. He's a chestnut, with a blaze that widens downward over his nose, and one tall white stocking on the hind.

I rode him around today, and he has noooo stamina right now. Definitely needs to meet a lunge line. Doesn't know how to jump - yet. He wasn't too happy today, and we discovered it was because he had a cut on the corner of his mouth. He also needs his teeth done. But he was a good boy to have such a bad mouth! I was surprised he didn't pitch much more of a fit than the bit of head shaking he did.

He's a little scared of blankets, but we worked on that and he doesn't act like an idiot about it. It's a bit of a tender subject, but he fits my cooler and show sheet. Needs his feet done BAD. Sooo much flare. Toes need to be backed up too.

A little ADD. Needs a little bit of work on manners. He circles at the mounting block like nobody's business. It's a project. A fixer-upper. But he's got a good head on his shoulders. There was a tractor across the road plowing up a dust storm and you'd expect him to be spooky, being in the new place and all that going on across the road, but he wasn't even terribly looky.

Right now, I'm just going to take it as it comes. I'm not banking on the trade off. If it doesn't happen, I'll be going through with deeper investigation of this stifle issue. For now, it's up in the air.

Everyone seems really happy for me and seems to think we'll be a good match. Casey does, most importantly, and I trust her judgement.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Quick post. OTTB cuteness.

I walked Amber for 10 minutes as directed by the vet. It was depressing and somewhat a reality check.

Then I did a walk/trot session with a cute OTTB named Mickey. He needs a job and I apparently need a ride, so I get to poke around on him for a while.

He's not badly put together, actually. Good bone, uphill, powerful hindquarters. He has a little more knee action going on than is probably ideal for hunters, but still not a horrid mover. I can feel every little thing in his walk and trot though. Took some getting used to. I had no idea riding Amber was like riding a couch until I rode this guy.

I didn't canter, because Casey left early and Victoria wasn't sure if the owner/Casey wanted me to do more than walk/trot. For a while I was getting the feeling I was getting on a crotch rocket, which he apparently can be. But Amber taught me long ago about crotch rocket's so sad that there were points in time where she took off with me so much, getting taken off with doesn't even phase me now. I'm sure he would have been fine cantering though. He rides a lot like Amber, despite being very opposite in his gaits. They wear the same girth size too, despite Mick being quite a bit larger. Even on the SAME holes.

I actually found him to be quieter than Amber, though. His bigger stride caused me to have him crawling along, and I realized I felt like my speed was more than it was because of the bigger stride, but I decided to let it be a little too slow since they said he likes to get fast, because I felt if that's the case, it would benefit him to let him poke around if he wanted to. Loose rein. He seems to alternate between actually getting on the bit and hanging on me. It was pretty easy to remind him not to hang, all I had to do was tickle him with the inside rein and he went "Oh yeah..."

He was quiet to lunge, quiet to ride...Victoria said she thought he liked me. Which is good, I liked him too, surprisingly. I was kind of expecting myself to be a little resentful like I usually am when I'm catch riding 'against my will'.

He got a hosing and some cookies for packing me around a while.

So it looks like this is my catch ride for a little while. I'm sure Monica at Chasing The Dream gives it a thumbs up for an OTTB. He's an ex-eventer too, so possibly even 2 thumbs up.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Locking stifle.

Just got a call from the vet.

She talked to Kim, did some research, and based on the fact that Amber has not responded to the bute, she says it's likely we will be able to rule out arthritis (which is great), and she thinks it may be a mild case of locking stifles.

She's got to talk to someone who specializes more in that, but for now it's good news. It can be fixed. She thinks it's very likely she could at least return to walk/trot/canter. She said it may come that she will be able to jump, but she also may not be able to. We will just have to see.

The cost is another issue, but right now we have no idea how much anything is going to cost until we Xray her to make 100% sure it's not arthritis, and of course to see what else is going on.

But heather definitely thinks it's her stifles, not her hocks. We're definitely thinking on the same page here.

Right now, although it's early on, I have to think about my options. It could go so many different ways. If it comes that she can walk/trot/canter fine, we'll see what our alternatives to something expensive like surgery are, see what the prognosis without surgery is, and maybe sell her to someone looking for that with a first right of refusal contract. Honestly, I think my main objection to selling her would be not having control of or not knowing where she could go.

If the prognosis is good and that she will return to what she was doing, then we will go for as much as we can afford. If I can't afford what will return her to that, then probably do the same as above if the prognosis is good for walk/trot/canter without.

And I'm trying not to feel like a selfish, nasty, callous person for considering the sale of my "forever horse" if she can merely not jump. But, at the same time, I've start to come to the realization that it's unrealistic. If I could afford 2 horses, she'd be here forever.

However, from what I'm reading on the internet, there are several cases where horses had it severe enough for surgery and they returned to full work, including over fences.

So for now, I will be happy. It's the first time I've had REAL direction in a long time.

If anyone wants to read up on this, all you have to do is google "locking stifle in horses" or "upward fixation of the patella".

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Your Flight Courtesy of "The Packing Cow"

While Amber is off I'm reluctantly riding other critters.

Today I was going to ride a cute OTTB named Mickey, but he had thrown two shoes so Casey and Victoria suggest I give Cow, the beginner rider packer, a walk-trot workout.

Somewhat disappointing, but hey, I'm catch riding so I can't be picky.

So I get on, and she's barely moving. We walked around a time or two and I had her on a loose rein. I wasn't paying her too much mind, because hey, it's "the packing Cow".

And all of a sudden she shoots sideways. And I did not go sideways with her. I literally just got left where I was. I was PISSED. So I hauled her butt back to the mounting block and she learned something today. I was so mad I was almost hoping she would throw me off one more time just so I could kick her butt all over again. LOL. I think she does that crap on purpose, because she learned that when she acts fruity and dumps her riders, they just put her away. Well, not this time, How Now Brown Cow.

As for Amber, she is the same. The bute hasn't really made a difference. It almost makes me wonder if she has very mild locking stifle?

Victoria also brought up the possibility of Lyme disease. A pony at the barn had it, so it's not impossible, but it just seems so unlikely. It's so rare here. But I have to keep the possibilities open.

Found out my Xrays and lameness exam from the specialist vet is going to run me around $500 total...ouch. Victoria also brought up, gently of course, the possibility that it might be better in the end to sell her as a trail horse. And I've considered it with first right of refusal in writing. My main objection to selling her if she isn't sound enough to compete is where she could end up. I would never forgive myself if I sold her and she went to auction or got into a shitty home. Never.

And then again, it's early to be thinking about such things, but it's still something to be thinking about. This has, after all, been plaguing us since I bought her. Apparently, she hasn't been sound since I bought her. Whether or not my riding her has helped or hindered is irrelevant. I've done the best I could with what I know. At the very least we can be sure it's nothing that I've done that made her do this - the first time I rode her at Andrea's we noticed it.

She was never totally right at Casey's, but she passed her flexions somehow in the PPE.

If I knew more, I'd feel better. The not knowing and all the possibilities is what is so frustrating. The fact that it's not a limping along lameness.

But hey, at least I have a funny story about how a little packer pony made me eat dirt that I probably wouldn't be able to laugh at if Amber wasn't off.

And my rides with the TB should be interesting. From what I hear he rides a lot like Amber, so I shouldn't have trouble making the adjustment. He seems to have a cute personality. He's kind of been a pasture puff so it'll do him good to have a job, anyway.

Friday, March 9, 2012

And back to hind end lameness.

So Heather believes Amber has a hind end lameness. She thinks hocks or stifles, and being that we injected her hocks once before with no real result, I'm leaning to stifles.

It obviously isn't blazingly apparent. Heather was surprised that she picks up either lead perfect and does auto changes over courses.

The good news is, she says even though it concerns her because Amber is young for stifle/hock issues, she thinks it can be fixed.

I feel kind of guilty for continuing this long. But I'm trying not to do that because I've been going with what I knew, and obviously she hasn't gotten any worse.

But no show tomorrow. Heather gave us bute for Amber 2x a day and she said if Amber improves then it most likely means there is a hind end lameness. She said just give her a call next week and let her know and we will go from there.

She said I should keep riding her though, light walking, so she won't get stiff. In a way I think continuing riding her HAS been what has kept her sound as she is. It's kept her in shape and everything loose.

She will be getting Xrayed unless anything changes. Heather recommended it, and I agree. Last time Kim recommended we not Xray because she said it would still lead up to hock injections. This time, I won't do anything without them, and definitely not injecting her hocks again without them.

Amber is my baby though, and no matter what the outcome, she will stay with me forever. Should she become a trail horse, a pasture puff, or return to being a hunter jumper. Casey seemed pretty disappointed for us. We have worked so hard the past few months and I feel like we've improved tenfold. I still can't believe how easily jumping has started coming. I can only pray we will be able to do it again soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Dos feet.

I went out with the simple plan to do whatever Casey thought we should do two days before the show.

We did some flatting which was laid back (maybe a little TOO laid back, but everyone stayed out all night I expected her to be tired). Then we did some warm up jumps over an 18" vertical. Trotted a few times and cantered it a few times. Then I did that 18" single plus another 18" (maybe slightly higher?) vertical on the diagonal. Then we did a course of 4 jumps. Almost the same course that screwed me up last time. Did I blog about that?

I can't remember. I had this one BAD lesson where I kept getting left behind over the stupidest little jumps though.

This time we BEASTED it. And unbeknownst to me, the second jump of the course was 2'. I didn't know until I dismounted and realized "Hey, that looks a little big!"

It was a really good course, our experience considered. We did lose our canter after the 2', but only because I felt like she was gaining speed and I could just let her set her own pace, but she tricked me and died and I couldn't get her back so I just let her trot up to the next jump.

I'm super, super excited. If you had told me a year ago I'd be able to jump 2' with in a year, I'd have laughed in your face.

We might be jumping at the show. The supposed 18" jumps they put up are a joke, they aren't even 18", so I know we could get through it with no problem. I don't want to push her too hard at her first show, but it's the Green Horse's really not a big deal, and it's a small course of tiny jumps so I think she can do it. Casey said it was up to me, so obviously she thinks we are ready if I have the desire to try it.

Mareface got a bath today, so we won't have to fight for the washpit tomorrow. She's getting her spring shots and coggins tomorrow. Also having the vet check her for hind end lameness, just because that toe dragging still bugs me. Still waiting for the farrier to call back.

It would make my WORLD if we could solve the toe dragging.

But for now, jumping makes my world. And I'm rather on my high horse because my jumps finally measure up in feet, not inches. Haha. Even though 2' is really measly.

Also should be mentioned how FABULOUS Victoria and Dylan looked today. That's some stiff competition! Those other riders ought to be shaking in their boots. ;)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

She's ready.

I had an awesome ride on the flat today. Amber was really going along nicely. Her consistency in her gaits has improved so much and she's starting to stretch down on a loose rein very well.

I just feel she's ready for showing. I feel like she's really ready this year. She may not win anything, she may not be perfect, but still I feel she's ready.

I did Dylan's mane for Victoria and in exchange she clipped Amber for me. Now our ponies are sexy beasts!

I'm going to keep the work light this week because I want her to be ready for the show, but not too tired. So we're riding Thursday and that's it. It's just a schooling show, after all. Tomorrow I'll be feeding up for the night and then Friday it will just be bathing and packing.

I think Amber might end up with shoes just on the back. It's a hard decision but she is still wearing off the toe, and she does it a little under saddle I noticed. More so in warm up. But the majority is coming off in the pasture and there's nothing I can do about that and duct taping her toes really isn't a fix.

So maybe it will give her a little extra support back there and perhaps the extra weight will remind her she has feet. The fact that she doesn't always do it and doesn't act like she's in pain just gives me the sense that this is conformational/lazy hind end. Still I'm going to have the vet give me another opinion when she comes for Amber's shots this month.

The fact that she wears both, albeit one more than the other, leads me to believe it's not lameness. The fact that the kinesiologist found nothing other than some tightness in her hind end and stifles also leads me to believe the same.

So right now the priority will just be to stop the wearing and go from there. According to Casey she moves great, but she's just not picking up those feet as she should.